MISSOULA – University of Montana doctoral candidate Ryan Bracewell recently was appointed a predoctoral fellowship through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Food Research Initiative. The fellowship recognized Bracewell’s research on a bark beetle and fungal symbiosis with a $77,000 award.
Bracewell examines how the western pine beetle interacts with two mutualistic fungi critical to the beetle’s success and survival. He uses next-generation DNA sequencing technology to conduct geographically comprehensive and genomically extensive analyses of the beetle and fungi. His results will lead to a more complete understanding of the evolutionary history and current genetic structure of these organisms and will help managers counter the pine beetle’s impact on ponderosa pine.
Bracewell studies under UM College of Forestry and Conservation Professor Diana Six and also is mentored by UM Division of Biological Sciences Professor Jeff Good.
Bracewell grew up in Colorado. He earned a bachelor’s degree in entomology from Colorado State University and a master’s in ecology from Utah State University, where he studied the evolution of reproductive isolation in the Mountain pine beetle.
The USDA AFRI at the National Institute of Food and Agriculture funds research, education and more. Their efforts aim to address key problems facing ranching, renewable energy, forestry, aquaculture and other systems. In 2013, nearly $6 million will support research, education and extension professionals in the food and agricultural sciences. The fellowship program works to develop the technical and functional competence of predoctoral students.
Photo Credit: Bracewell in his UM laboratory.